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What are the benefits of exercise?
I am a big believer in exercise. I bicycle to the hospital every day. For patients with heart disease, I suggest working with your doctor to determine a regular regiment of exercise. It will often reduce the risk of future heart attacks. There are specific cardiac rehab programs, which are designed for people after heart attacks, heart surgery, or patients with heart failure. They reduce death rates and the risk of future hospitalizations. Many patients can return to work and their former lifestyle. There are plenty of younger people with heart disease. Some of them have never done much physical exercise. All seem to benefit from the exercise programs.


What are some of the specific physical benefits of exercise?
When exercise is done regularly, patients will usually see a reduction in their body weight. They will notice improved aerobic capacity and better blood pressure rates. Exercise is also beneficial to control blood sugar levels and reduce inflammatory markers, which are particles in the blood that tend to promote heart attack and plaque buildup. Exercise is also known to improve mental function and cognition, as well as be a good release for stress and anxiety. In addition, people tend to sleep better after they exercise.


What types of athletic activity should be done?
Aerobic exercises are most beneficial to the heart. Patients can walk, run, cycle, or use the elliptical machines. It is best to couple this aerobic activity with some strength training. Patients do not have to be aggressive in their exercise routine. They should stay mild and modest. The strength training helps to avoid injury and be able to keep up with the program. It is key for patients to pick an exercise they like, so that they stick with it. They should choose something fun and consider doing exercise with a buddy. Almost everyone can walk. Just walking for half an hour a day is a great benefit.


Do doctors consider exercise important when treating a patient who already has heart disease?
When we see people who need surgery, we begin by evaluating risk. One risk factor is about functional capacity. It sounds simple, “Can you walk up a flight of steps without stopping?” People who are fit generally do well with a simple parameter like that. When a patient says no, the question about walking up a flight of steps without stopping, it raises a red flag. This ties into the role exercise plays.


Are there risks to exercise when a patient has heart issues?
A patient should always speak to the doctor before starting an exercise program. There is some risk in terms of exercise. Doctors have to establish the level of heart disease in terms of provoking angina or chest pains. Muscular skeletal injuries need to be considered. Most, however, will find a level of exercise to fit their needs. Not everybody loves it. When it comes to my patients, some can’t believe how much better they feel. Others are happy with how their body has changed and the improvements they see.

A graduate of Franklin and Marshall in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Dr. Weinreich subsequently received his medical degree from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also completing his internship and residency there. His fellowship in cardiovascular disease was completed at Lankenau Hospital, of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Dr. Weinreich is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine with a subspecialty in cardiovascular disease, Board Certified in Nuclear Cardiology, and is also a fellow with the American College of Cardiology.

Vassar Brothers Medical Center
Northern Duchess Hospital
The Heart Center, a division of Hudson Valley Cardiovascular Practice, P.C.
60 Merritt Blvd, Suite 200
Fishkill, NY 12524
TTY /Accessibility: (800) 421-1220

​Read Past Topics from Dr. Weinreich: 
What Should I Know About a Stress Test?

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dr. david j. weinreich
David J. Weinreich, MD, FACC
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